Rear Facing Seat Safety

Rear Facing Seat Safety

I'm debating my kids (5 abd 7) desire to ride in the rear facing seats vs a booster seat in the standard rear seats. I'm looking for peer review on my determination that the rear facing are safer overall. A lot of it is based on these numbers.

Frontal: 38% of accidents, 42% of fatalities
Side: 22% of accidents, 30% of fatalities
Rear: 2% of accidents, 6% of fatalities
Rollover: 39% of accidents, 24% of fatalities

Based on this I think the rear facing seats are the best for frontal as they are rear facing, except for the rebound force with regard to the head being near a rear window. The best for side impact with the 5 point harness and the amount of frame next to them. The best for rollover with the 6 point harness and the amount of frame to the side and over their heads. Not the best with regard to rear impact with their legs near the impact and their heads near the window.

My outcome is that overall the rear facing will be safer for the 98% of accidents and 94% of all fatalities and would be less safer for the others. The only caveat is not knowing how well the seats react in an accidents (i.e. how do the seats deform or move in an accident).


garyrudolph | March 16, 2013

My only concern is that his data doesn't break out these statistics by driver vs. passenger other than it mentions that 73% of all fatalities are the driver. But that may be overinflated as most cars only have a driver. I'd be curious if they broke this same data apart for rear seat passengers.

cschock | March 16, 2013

Logically I don't see any reason the rear would NOT be safer.

Rear end collisions tend to be at much lower speeds than side or front impacts, so injury rate is lower overall for that kind of impact on your vehicle. So for the case where they are more exposed, on balance that is a good trade-off.

The five point harness is far superior to a three point and a non-fixed booster seat in terms of stopping a small child from being moved around in a significant impact.

The seats are attached to the rear seat as well as the floor of the car. This is NOT true of a booster seat.

In a FRONT impact the child is going to have his/her head supported by the seat back to a certain extent rather than thrown forward as it would be in a booster seat. This is a very real benefit I think.

I plan to put my 6 year old in the rear (and in fact this was one of the selling features to me for the vehicle.)

David Trushin | March 16, 2013

You might also want to factor in the number of years your kids will be able to use the rear seats since there is a size limitation on that space. It's a lot of money to spend for a few years. Tesla should really make this a leaseable option.

Brian H | March 16, 2013

There is special boron steel hex impact reinforcement back there, as Elon has 5 kids. He claims they are the safest seats in the car.

garyrudolph | March 16, 2013

cschlock, that's kind of the thoughts I had as well. Particularly related that rear collisions have a lower speed differential.

Brian, hmm, I was curious what extra they had done for reinforcement back there.

David, my kids should be there for a bit as they are 5 and 7.

kermit1995 | March 16, 2013

I debated this one a lot as I have a 7yr old and a new infant.

The points about rear-facing and 5pt harness are quite likely to be accurate. That's why the American Academy of Peds endorses having kids sit rear-facing until they are 2 years old, regardless of height or weight. You'll get better neck support and distribution of energy will be along the entire back length of the car seat vs. a restraining belt.

5 points will better distribute the load compared to adult 3 point harness.

However, I opted not to outfit the car with the rear seats because their feet go into the deep footwell which seems ultimately positions them awfully close to the end of the car. I always worry about intrusion from the other car. In skimming the data you linked, the one thing I wonder they have enough data for a rear facing child. There really aren't that many cars that have these "carbon monoxide" seats anymore right? (unless you have an old station wagon). Therefore, if you're thinking about fatalities from rear ending, perhaps the data is derived from victims who are sitting in conventional seating layouts, whereas the rear boosters are so much closer to the point of impact vs someone sitting in a conventional "back seat" position, this may not be apples to apples.

Ultimately, I didn't get it, I can't imagine my kid's big head blocking more of my rear view mirror view - he's got a melon!! I guess the new production build outs require a commitment of either yeah of nay, I think I got mine early enough that I may be able to go back and have it installed, although the service guy told me it isn't just bolting new seats, there is apparently some electrical work that has to happen as well.

Azdcmoney | March 16, 2013

Hopefully u live some where cool, there r no a/c vents back there

shop | March 17, 2013

If you get the child seats, you also need to tint the back windows. But if I had toddlers still (up until age 7 or so), I'd get the rear seats...

kjo | March 17, 2013

I got the rear seats. I have 3 kids, ages 6, almost 4, and 10 months. I was, and am, really nervous about rear end collisions but since I live and work inside the city (Houston) I really don't get on the highway that often and most of the local streets you are not traveling at high speeds. I haven't ever been in a rear end collision before except in a parking lot a low speeds.

Now I'm nervous about climate control though. I didn't anticipate it being hot back there. Obviously in the summer it would be unbearable.

Brian H | March 17, 2013

Clear or tinted heatshield coating works.

danielccc | March 17, 2013

My only question here is the distance from the head to the glass. In a front end collision the heads would first sink forwards into the seat and then bounce back towards the glass. The five point harness means they won't go far, but still several inches for sure.

Head injuries are the big killers. I'd feel less than comfortable about front collision safety if the top of the forehead was less than at least 12" from the glass, measured on an rising line back and about 10 degrees up from the forehead (Only a guess: a film of an impact test would be best to see how much everything would move around).

This means a smaller child would be safer.

I would not worry about rear collisions. They happen, but clearly you need to be 49 times more worried about front and side impacts.

markapeterman | March 17, 2013

My 8 year old is 4'8" and her head is 6+ inches from the glass above. Because of the slope of the window, even if she pitched forward, she would never hit the glass unless she came out of the seat.
I have CTX 15 on the back window and there are no heat issues so far.
I think they are very safe and functional - and my kids love them.

garyrudolph | March 17, 2013

My older son seems to have plenty (i.e. 12") of head room when I try move it as close to the window as possible. The only question is how much the seat backs move in a collision.

As for A/C back there, yah, we are running into that, but it just gave me the motivation to add a ceramic tint (i.e. Huper Optic) which has gone into almost all of the sedans I've owned. This should help out with the rear.

danielccc | March 17, 2013

markapeterman, I understand the glass is sloped, that's why I wrote that the 12" should be measured mostly towards the back, with a slope up, not straight up.

The reason I said 12" is that things really move a lot in a collision. Just look at some crash test videos, it's as if whole cars and people are made of rubber.

Winnie796 | March 18, 2013

There are people who advertise "Child onboard" with a sticker on the back of their car. I wonder how much effect such a sticker has on the drivers following? Do the faces on the children in the back of a MS staring at the drivers behind help to keep other cars at a safe distance? Anyone with the child seats have any experience of drivers tailgating when their children are in the rear seats?

Brian H | March 18, 2013

Depends how many rude gestures the kids know and use.

Winnie796 | March 19, 2013

@Brian J: lol

hvenegas | July 27, 2013

We have had our Tesla S for almost 7 months now and the rear-facing seats are one of our favorite features. Our 6 year old loves them and they are great for having one of his friends along for a quick ride. Our 2 1/2 year old is right at the edge of being able to use them and we have only let him back there for a quick 5 minute ride to school with his brother. When we go for longer rides, we put them both in their car seats in the second row. The heat in the back for SoCal is a serious problem without the tinting so we are definitely getting that done asap. It is also a little weird that you can't see them while they are back there. I need to get a mirror maybe. So... yes.. we love them. But are they safe? That is why I came to this forum. If anyone has any safety ratings or third party reports, I would love to see them!

jackhub | July 27, 2013

In one of his recent interviews, Elon said the Model S was tested for a 70 mph rear end collision-- in the interest of his kids.

TS | July 27, 2013

It would be nice to have interior camera back there . Split screen between this and the rearview camera
Add this and ventilation to the third row pack for 300$

manbitesfilm | January 17, 2014

@jackhub I don't suppose this interview is online in any form? I can't seem to find it...